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How to be Sweet & Charming - Lesson One Part Three

Section 1
Lesson 1
Part Three of Three

(the bracketed italic comments are mine - the rest is verbatim, caps and all, as written by Alma Archer from the 10 booklet set, How to Be Sweet & Charming, copyright 1939.
to read the Introduction to the series and the first two parts of lesson one search tag How to Be Sweet and Charming)

(We left off with Alma explaining the Yin Yang theory of dressing for your man - the remainder of this chapter gives examples from the girls of the time. Because I love you, I have added pictures so you can get a visual - and so you young girls can catch up because I bet a lot of these woman will make you say "who?" Though admittedly, even I had not heard of a couple of these girls before so we will learn together)

KATHERINE HEPBURN steps into the Yang picture when she throws her head, hair and face into relief with a long body line which she emphasizes with coats that button to the neck etc. She never confuses herself with too feminine details, but aims her vigor and forcefulness directly at distinctive femininity. Nothing in the Hepburn appearance of manner indicates the boyish-bob-flat-heel, briefcase of non-allure.

(Now if you remember we had left off with Alma basically telling us that you have to dress for who you are, and not try to be who you aren't. But all whilst maintaining that fact that you are a girl through and through. We all know Kate was of course the original girl who dressed entirely for herself and acted that way - however she was still insanely sexy. Its easy to look back and see this but try for a moment to remember that Alma was there and writing it as it happened - pretty astute huh? And for you young things who just said "who is Katherine Hepburn" well, first off - I need your mom's phone number so I can bitch slap her for your lack of proper education and second - because I am a generous soul - here are some pictures. Now go Google her and go rent or download a few of her movies.)

(You can thank me later)

(Now can you honestly tell me that if you are the kind of girl that does not naturally head straight for the dresses that you where not just inspired by those pictures? And most of these are from the 1940s! Let me repeat that - the 1940s - SIXTY years ago. Maybe Alma might just know her stuff after all? Katherine is dressed like the men of her day and yet she is ALL girl - unabashedly, in your face drop dead fabulous girlishness.)

HELEN HAYES goes Yin and dresses the "feminine type" by affecting little girl dressed with soft collars and neck bows and naive hats

(Early pics of Helen Hayes are harder to find - and I am trying to stay within the time line the book was written in but even these give you the general idea.
She was definitely an entirely different type of woman then Kate)

MRS HARRISON WILLIAMS is conspicuous for her exquisite grooming and simplicity of clothes choice (may I have please have that description as my epithet?) She dresses unerringly to "occasion" and is always in possession of charm and poise and good manners - so that she is recognizable as a smart woman at even more then a hundred paces

(Confession - this is the woman I have fantasized about becoming since the first time I picked up Vogue at 16. Unfortunately I am invariably the girl whom you see fall flat on her ass after tripping over a a bit of misplaced air - though I do like to think I have managed over the years to look quite smart even at mid-fall)

You will find nothing to startle you in Mrs. Williamsn costuming - no blazing jewels to overpower her adaptation of the "Yin" Personality.

(Upon Googling Mrs Williams I find that she was an American socialite and fashion icon and in 1933 was named the "best dressed woman of the world by Chanel, Lanvin, Molyneux, Vionnet and Lelong. Not a bad title if you can get it. And in 1936 the great and legendary Cole Porter sang: "What do I care if Mrs. Harrison Williams is the best dressed woman in town?" in his song "Ridin' High". In 1943, Mona's portrait was painted by Salvador Dalí. That's some resume peeps. She also was a devoted couture client - When Cristobal Balenciaga closed his atelier in 1968, Diana Vreeland is said to have whispered that Mona didn't leave her bedroom in the villa at Capri for three days. She also donated many many pieces to various museums, so the next time you see a gorgeous piece of couture on display in a museum, peek at the donation card once you have managed to close you gaping jaws at the beauty before you. Now you will know just who that fabulous woman was that could have worn that beautiful dress. She died on 1983. I wish I could have met her. Take a minute and go read the Wikipedia info on her that is in the link above, then come back - there are more fabulous women to meet still)

BECAUSE OF HER SIMPLICITY, the great Paris Couture placed Mme. Patino in a top groove of the new epoch of smart and alluring women.

(no pictures of her I am afraid - or at least none I could dig up. Though I did find out this interesting tidbit: She owned the
Emerald Cross of Queen Victoria Eugenia!)

"Once owned by Isabell II of Spain and Empress Eugenie of France, from Queen Victoria Eugenia sold at the time of King Juan Carlos wedding to Cartier. In exile, Victoria Eugenia sold the carved emerald cross to Cartier who, after setting it into a necklace it designed in 1937 (in a necklace design similar to the one it had created for the Queen in 1931), then sold it to Madame Patiño, wife of the famous “tin king.” It was then inherited by her daughter, Isabel Goldsmith."

Well chosen eccentricity always has been a preference of the winner, Mme Antenor Patino, although she is usually is faithful to classical lines in her costume.

(I have to tell you I am in awe of the descriptions of these women, As I read them I find myself repeating them out loud, the strange, archaic, yet beautiful phrasing rolling off my modern girl tongue. The words alone make me remember in part why I have this absolute love for vintage - there is just something magical and wonderful about those bygone eras. Past that, this is very very very good advice, our dear Alma is saying that this Mme. Patino follows the trends and pushes the fashion envelope but always within the decorum of good taste )

Some woman confuse eccentricity and individuality.
(Some woman confuse eccentricity and individuality.)

Eccentricity WELL-CHOSEN can mean the finest sort of individuality in dress but badly-chosen can be the poorest taste imaginable. If the Paris Couture ever saw the American assortment of fur-trimmed galoshes turned loose on our streets (is this REALLY from 70 years ago - has nothing changed??), they'd probably award the all-time booby prize to this side of the Atlantic.

(I am afraid that this is still the case - and worse its permeated Paris these days too, non?)

Dorothy Lamour's are the only possible ones I've ever discovered, and hers were custom made to harmonize with her mink fur and fox coat.

(Dorothy Lamar was a hottie and it seems a very cool girl in her day)

(See this is the tricky bit about fashion - for all the do's and don'ts that anyone can possibly throw at you - there is always that ONE damn girl out there that can make a don't work - and not only does she make it work but she makes it work to the point that you stay up at night trying to redefine yourself into that type of girl that can also make it work. You can't. Sorry but someone has to tell you the bitter truth. Just be the best Yin or Yang you can be and leave the rule breakers to their own rule breaking course)

I wish women would spend more time in front of the mirror before journeying out in front of the streets. Ask that one question which the French clothes experts used when vetoing the Duchess of Windsor in favor of Mme, Patino - "Am I dressed with individual simplicity?"

(Look I don't need to say anything to that.
Just write that quote on a post it - stick it on every mirror on your house and the world will be a better place within a day or two by this one act alone.)

THERE ARE PLENTY OF TRICKS OF SMARTNESS which come under the flag of simplicity but with individuality thrown in.

MADELEINE CARROLL is individualizing herself with pockets used as decorative details - pockets just large enough for a lace handkerchief and powder puff in nightgowns, in evening frocks, in day clothes. That's a simple note - a pocket.
And individual too, wanting a nose powdered in bed

(are you laughing out loud at that last line like I am? Our Dear Alma has a wicked sense of humour. She also has a good point.)

CLAUDETTE COLBERT, for instance, has lipsticks especially blended to match the deep red of her valuable ruby jewels

wow - I am so NOT a real girl compared to these woman -
why did we let all this go girls?
Could we not have kept these bits of uber-fabulousness
and gone out and conquered the world too?
huh huh?

(don't you wish these pictures where in color so you could see her lipstick color? I do)

GLADYS SWARTHOUT wears a shocking pink crepe evening dress designed to expose flesh under a widely laced bodice, and her Venetian glass neckwear, bracelet and brooch in pastel pink, blue and mauve set off the gown with great individuality and smartness

End of Lesson One

So to me this Lesson says to know yourself and find your own style.
Keep within the realms of good taste and decorum but be an individual.
Don't fight who you are, but rather showcase it.
Find a signature style and then make it you, though and through.
And dress up!
for God's sakes girls put some effort into it.
Even if its just a little bit of extra lipstick that matches your faux jewels.


Lesson Two is The Secrets of Charm
How Smart Women Control Their Fate

Join me?


fabulous finds said...

i can't even begin to tell you how much i am enjoying these posts...and the pics..wow...they were some beautiful fashionable stunning women!
keep it up...love the commentary...and of course...i always laugh when you repeat alma...
some things just need to be said twice!

Kathryn said...

I'm loving this. Keep'em coming!

Kathryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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